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Black Friday kicks off scramble in shorter shopping season

HUNTINGTON — For decades now, sisters Patricia Calhoun and Tracie McDaniel have ventured out on Black Friday.

“It’s not really about the deals; it’s the excitement,” McDaniel said.

When they first started, it was for toys for their kids. But now that the kids are adults, Calhoun and McDaniel are joined by their daughters, Kaitlyn Ritchie and Nikki McDaniel.

On Friday, the foursome traveled about two hours from their homes in Kentucky to shop in and around the Huntington Mall this year. They started at stores around the mall before making it to the mall around noon. They planned to end the day at Walmart — another tradition.

Ritchie said they probably wouldn’t make it home until 3 a.m., which was about when they got home last year. They said they chose the Huntington Mall over others, like Lexington, because it’s less crowded and has less traffic.

“We are crazy,” Nikki McDaniel said.

“We have a lot of laughs,” her mom, Tracie McDaniel, said.

Representatives for the Huntington Mall said overall Black Friday was a success.

The mall opened at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and gave away 500 swag bags. Margi MacDuff, marketing manager, said 600 people were in line. By 8 p.m. she said it was shoulder to shoulder.

Stores like Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works had a one-out, one-in policy as the shops met fire code capacity, MacDuff said.

When the mall reopened Friday, MacDuff said it started off slowly but the mall’s candy bar giveaway (with prizes) got things started and by noon the mall parking lot was once again full.

The shopping season is the shortest since 2013 because Thanksgiving fell on the last Thursday in November — the latest possible date it could be.

Adobe Analytics predicts a loss of $1 billion in online revenue from a shortened season. Still, it expects online sales will reach $143.7 billion, up 14.1% from last year’s holiday season.

The National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail trade group, baked the shorter season into its forecast, but it says the real drivers will be the job market. It forecasts that holiday sales will rise between 3.8% and 4.2%, an increase from the disappointing 2.1% growth in the November and December 2018 period that came well short of the group’s prediction.

Last year’s holiday sales were hurt by turmoil over the White House trade policy with China and a delay of nearly a month in data collection because of a government shutdown. This year’s holiday forecast is above the average holiday sales growth of 3.7% over the previous five years.

NRF expects online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total, to increase between 11% and 14% for the holiday period.

Adobe Analytics said Thanksgiving Day hit new records for online shopping. Consumers spent $4.2 billion on Thanksgiving, a 14.5% increase from the holiday a year ago. Black Friday was on track to hit $7.4 billion.

With discounts coming earlier this year, Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at market research firm NPD Group Inc., believes the biggest sales day of the year will be a toss-up between Black Friday and the last Saturday before Christmas.

As online sales surge, some retailers including Costco.com and H&M grappled with brief outages, according to technology company Catchpoint.

Target reported Friday that 1 million more customers used its app to shop Black Friday deals compared with last year. The discounter said customers bought big-ticket items like TVs, Apple iPads and Apple Watches.

Walmart had similar reports of higher app usage. The most popular deals included TVs from brands like Samsung and Philips, Ryan’s World and Frozen toys, and Apple AirPods.

More than half of consumers started their holiday shopping early this year, and nearly a quarter of purchases have already been made, according to the annual survey released by the NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

Besides the rise of online shopping, deals starting before Halloween were part of the reason for thinner crowds, said Charles O’Shea, a retail analyst at Moody’s.

MacDuff said this year was different from other years.

“This is my 17th Christmas,” she said. “The first few years were insane. Spreading the shopping out has really helped.”

She said the one single day of sales is what brought on fights. This year was all positive, she said.

MacDuff said the mall also had more stores closed on Thanksgiving Day proper, a decision she wholeheartedly agrees with, she said. In the end, MacDuff said she thinks it will bring more people to the mall as they come back to shop the stores that weren’t open when the Black Friday frenzy began.

The Huntington Mall will have volunteer gift wrappers stationed at the mall every day this season. MacDuff said it was the first year every day is staffed for wrapping.

Trial set for murder victim's father accused of wanton endangerment

HUNTINGTON — A trial date has been set for a father accused of shooting up the home and business of those involved in the case against the man who killed his daughter in Cabell County.

Gregory Allen Adkins, 64, of Branchland, West Virginia, was charged in April 2018 as part of an ongoing joint investigation into several shots-fired calls and at least one alleged makeshift bomb complaint made by those connected with the court case involving the death of his daughter, Kayla Adkins. The 26-year-old Lincoln County mother was found dead behind an abandoned barn near Salt Rock in 2016.

Gregory Adkins faces seven counts of wanton endangerment.

The sides appeared in Cabell Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell’s courtroom Tuesday, at which time the special prosecutor assigned to the case — James Gabehart, the Lincoln County prosecutor — and defense attorney Adam Campbell said they could not reach a plea agreement in the case and asked for a trial to be set. Adkins will go to trial Feb. 18, 2020.

Adkins’ daughter’s killer, Corey Seth Chapman, 26, of Salt Rock, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in December 2018 and was sentenced to serve 40 years in prison. He had admitted to police the pair had been having an argument about their relationship. Chapman told police he had placed Kayla Adkins in a “reverse bear-hug hold” at some point to calm her, but she stopped breathing and fell dead to the ground.

Prior to Chapman’s plea, in April 2018 Gregory Adkins was accused of shooting the vehicle of an attorney who shared office space with Chapman’s attorney, Glen Conway. Police also said he fired a firearm April 23 at Conway’s home. The weapon was fired at the home, and the discharged round passed through a bedroom window belonging to one of the attorney’s young children.

He was also accused of shooting at the home of Chapman’s family along Madison Creek Road in Branchland.

At his preliminary hearing in May 2018, Adkins also was accused of being involved in a makeshift bomb complaint. Adkins remains out of jail on bond.

Model Railroad Show chugs into Huntington

HUNTINGTON — For some people, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a model train chugging around the tree.

Luckily, Huntington is offering hundreds to choose from at the 62nd annual Model Railroad Show at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena’s Conference Center. The show features about 14 model train layouts and dozens of vendors selling new and used engines, cars, tracks and other memorabilia.

The show resumes from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, and from noon to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1. Tickets, which are good all weekend, are $6 for adults and $1 for children under 12.

The show, hosted by the Appalachian Model Railroad Society, is one of the oldest in the nation, said its vice president, Carl Miller. The show is important for the hobby’s enthusiasts because the nearest model railroad shop is in Scott Depot in Putnam County.

“This show makes it at least locally available,” Miller said. “There’s only one hobby shop within a 50-mile radius and it’s in Scott Depot. This gives everybody here locally an opportunity to get together if they have something to do with trains at all.”

Miller, a retired civil engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has been building a model train countryside in his home for the past 40 years. Many of the society’s members don’t have the space to accommodate such a model set, so they resort to building “modules.”

Robert Osburn, of Ashland, is a member of the National Model Railroad Association in the mid-central region. Each member builds separate modules that, when brought together, can make up one larger track. When the members are attending a show, they put out a call for modules and make sure they have enough pieces to make one larger circuit.

It’s the latest trend in model railroading, he said.

“People think these trains are old-fashioned, but they are constantly changing,” Osburn said. “We actually have a router on the controller and we run them with an iPhone.”

Cyndi and John Shuman, of Cross Lanes, West Virginia, began collecting Fisher-Price GeoTrax about 15 years ago. Ever since, they’ve been attending shows and going to libraries to set up their set pieces. Most of the model railroads at the show are not for touching, but not the GeoTrax, Cyndi Shuman said.

“We do appreciate parents telling children ‘no touch,’” she said.

“So my goal was to have (a display) kids could touch that they don’t even have to clean up after themselves. They can come and play as long as they want, and we will come pick it up Sunday.”

Miller said children are essential to keeping their hobby alive.

“Unfortunately we are competing with video games and all this other stuff. I think this hobby, whether it’s girls or boys, can give parents an opportunity to connect,” he said.

“You can make it as complicated and as simple as you want. You have artistry in it; you can paint and make buildings. If you progress when kids get old enough, you can get into electric and basic controls.”

The Appalachian Model Railroad Society meets at the Kyova Tri-State Mall in Ashland from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays. Anyone interested in the hobby is encouraged to attend.